Monday, August 13, 2012

The Box in the Attic: A Tate Mystery (Part One)

The dawning of yet another hot, sticky day found my sister and me once again cleaning out the attic, since last time we had been distracted by finding a pair of roller skates and never finished. We were each in our designated corners, going through the piles of boxes that Mom had stuck up there over the years.
"I'm going down to get some lemonade," I told Zoe, wiping sweat from my forehead.
"Bring me some!" she called after me as I disappeared down the ladder.

I was back soon enough, carrying the two glasses in one hand while I used the other to clumsily climb the ladder. I was mostly concentrating on not spilling any of it on myself, so I didn't look at Zoe when I set the glass down next to her. If I had, I would have seen that she was standing very still, staring curiously at a slip of paper that she held in her hand.
"Charlotte?" she said a second later.
"Come here."
I sighed and put down my lemonade. "What is it?"
"Look at this." She handed me the piece of paper she had been holding. It was a clip from a newspaper.
 " 'Local couple killed in car crash?' " I read, looking at the headline. Zoe nodded. "So?"
"Keep reading," she told me.
" 'Late last Tuesday night, Samuel and Katelyn Winchester were turning onto their street when Joe Saxton - a student at the local college and drunk at the time -  appeared around the corner behind them in his pickup truck. He rear-ended their car and sent them spinning off the road and into a nearby telephone pole. Samuel and his wife were both dead when the ambulance arrived on the scene. Saxton, however, survived with minor injuries. The Winchesters' daughter was at home with a sitter at the time of the accident. She was orphaned the day before her fourth birthday'," I read. "Aw, that's so sad! What does it have to do with us, though?" Zoe sighed as if I was the stupidest person on earth.
"Look at the date of the paper." I looked. April 29th, 2005.
"So?" I asked again, beginning to feel rather like I was the stupidest person on earth.
She sighed again and snatched the paper from my hands. Pointing at a line on the page, she read: "They left their daughter the day before her fourth birthday. Our fourth birthday would be April 30th, 2005. Don't you think that's weird?"
"Ohhhh," I finally said. "Cool! She's the exact same age as we are! But what does that have to do with us?"
"Nothing, I guess. I just thought it was kind of weird that Mom would have this up here," Zoe said, shrugging. "And it's a pretty big coincidence, if you ask me."
It was pretty mysterious, I had to agree. But, normal old Charlotte Tate couldn't solve this mystery by herself. I'd have to call in outside help.
"Zoe, I think it's time for Alexandria Beauregard to come out of hiding," I said. Zoe groaned.
"Why don't we just go ask Mom? I hate Alexandria. She's always trying to get me to wear some stupid costume."
"Aw, come on, Zoe. Please?"
"Whatever. Just tell her to leave me alone. I'll be in the corner going through boxes," she said, stomping off to another corner of the attic. I disappeared down the ladder and a few minutes later, Alexandria came climbing back up. Zoe groaned again.

I thought I'd start looking for clues in the box where Zoe had found the newspaper clipping. I dumped all of its contents out on the floor and started to search through them.

Most of the stuff inside consisted of letters from old friends and paper envelopes from Walmart full of photos. Nowhere was the name Winchester.
After about an hour or so of searching, I had still found nothing. I put my head in my hands and sighed.
"Ready to admit defeat yet, Alexandria?" Zoe sneered.
"Never!" I cried. But, I had to admit that there was nothing more in that box that was of interest. I'd have to look elsewhere. I scooped up the big pile of papers in my arms and was about to dump them back in the box when I spotted the corner of a yellow manilla folder sticking out of the overlapped cardboard at the bottom of the box.

I dropped the papers that were in my arms. A feeling of excitement crept over me as I read the words on the front: 

"Zoe!" I cried.
"What?" she sighed, coming over to where I was standing. I showed her the folder.
"Cool," she said nonchalantly, but I could tell she was more excited than she was letting on.
"Should we open it?" She shrugged. I took that as a yes.
I took a deep breath and opened the folder.
Inside was a postcard, a necklace, and a birthday card.

I turned over the postcard to see what it said. 
" 'Dear Tates: New Zealand is gorgeous! Thank you so much for taking care of Charlotte and Zoe while Sammy and I are gone! Wish you guys were here! Looking forward to seeing you when we get back! Love, Kate and Sammy'," I read.
"Great, now we're a part of this too! I am so confused," Zoe cried. I nodded - this was confusing even for a brilliant detective like Alexandria.

I picked up the birthday card next, hoping it might help clear up the confusion.
Inside, the words "Happy Birthday Susie!" were written in big letters. Beneath that was a message.
" 'We've all been missing you Tates back here in the big city! Keep your eyes out for a clunky old station wagon coming your way sometime soon, though - we're planning to come to Maine for the holidays! Here's hoping we see each other soon - I know the girls must be missing each other just as much as you and I are! Love, Kate and Sammy'," I read.
"Is that it?" Zoe asked. "Come on! I'm more confused now than I was a second ago!"
"No, wait, there's a PS," I said. " 'By the way, Zoe and Charlotte picked out the beads for this necklace and helped me string them on. It's amazing how much the two of them have grown! It's hard to believe that they'll be four in just a few weeks!'," I read.
"I'm getting a headache," Zoe groaned. "Come on, let's just go ask Mom."
"No! Alexandria can solve this!" I cried. "Just give me a second."

I sat down on the floor with my head in my hands. What do we know? I asked myself.
Well, we knew that:
a. Kate and Sammy Winchester were Mom's friends.
b. They died the day before Zoe's and my fourth birthday in a car accident.
c. Zoe and I were the daughters of either Mom or the Winchesters.
As I sat there thinking it all over, I discovered with a jolt that Zoe and I might not be related at all! That line on the birthday card, it had said: I know the girls must be missing each other as much as you and I are. That meant that when the Tates moved to Maine, either Zoe or I had come with them, while the other one of us had stayed back in New York with the Winchesters. So how come we both lived with the Tates now? Were Zoe and I even related? Was the person we knew of as our mom actually our mother?
I sighed. This mystery was too much for Alexandria to solve. It was time to go ask Mom.
"Let's go," I told Zoe. I picked up the folder, intending to put it back in the box, when I noticed that there was something inside that we hadn't noticed previously. My fingers shaking, I took it out and read the words on the front: 

That's all for now! I'll post Part Two soon!
Have you solved the mystery yet? What do you think will happen?


  1. Cool! I can't wait to see what happens next! :)
    So you and Zoe are adopted?

  2. Dia duit, Charlotte!

    Wow! Alexandria sure is an awesome detective! ;)

    I wonder why your mom hasn't said anything about this before? I also wonder is one or both of you are adopted? I can't wait to find out more!


  3. :O I can't wait to know what happens! This is QUITE the mystery!